Monday, January 17, 2011

Daily Bible Reading: January 17-23

January 17th

Genesis 19:1-38

The day of reckoning has come to Sodom and Gomorrah. In chapter 18, the Lord said He would visit Sodom to see the depths of the wickedness and He had assured Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if ten righteous individuals could be found. The terms of judgment are set, and two angels, in the form of men, come to Lot who is sitting in the gate of the city.

Remember Lot? Lot is Abraham's nephew who separated from Abraham awhile back when their herdsmen began to have conflicts. Abraham had let Lot choose where he would want to live. If Lot chose one direction, he would go the other. If you look back to chapter 13, you will see in verses 11-13 that Lot chose what looked the best and moved into the plains just outside of Sodom. Even at that time the men of Sodom were wicked. Now as we read in chapter 19, Lot is no longer outside the city, living in the plains, he is right in the heart of the wicked town of Sodom.

The life of Lot is a perfect example of how sin can so drastically affect a person. Much of sin is hidden behind an external attractiveness. Lot, in choosing the plains outside Sodom, based his decision on the attractiveness of the area. Soon Lot was no longer distant from the center of the wickedness but had moved himself and his family right into the city. Though he was not participating in the wickedness himself, his close association had drastically affected his family, his judgment, and his closeness to the Lord.

Just consider some of these facts about Lot and his family that are brought to our attention. Lot is so lacking in his spiritual life that he tries to rescue angels from physical men. He is so distorted in his judgment that he offers his daughters to these wicked men as a substitute for the angels. His family has become so infected by the wickedness around him that his married daughters and their husbands show no respect when he tries to warn them. And, Lot himself is so distant in his relationship with the Lord that, when given direct instructions for saving himself and his family, he lingers, doubts, and questions. What a sad case Lot had become. Yet, God was merciful and tolerated Lot's foolishness and rescued him.

We all live with wickedness around us. Realizing this, we all need to consider the life of Lot as a warning and the life of Abraham as an example. Lot lived in the midst of the sin letting the sin become too familiar to him and his family. Abraham stayed separated from the sin seeking God's way above all else. Lot let his relationship with the Lord fall by the wayside. Abraham communed with God on a regular basis. Lot questioned and doubted God's plan of safety. Abraham listened and trusted the Lord.

Seek to model the life of Abraham and pray that the Lord will keep you from the foolishness of Lot.

January 18th

Genesis 20:1-18

What an interesting chapter. Abraham, who in just the previous chapter ate and conversed with the Lord, who recently witnessed the Lord's power in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, stumbles at the fear of a man. For the second time Abraham fears the earthly ruler of a region and tries to pass off Sarah as his sister instead of his wife.

Now, it is true that Sarah is Abraham's half-sister, but the intent of Abraham saying that Sarah was his sister was not pure. He clearly wanted that to be believed so that his own life would not be threatened by the local ruler who might desire to take Sarah for himself as a wife. Apparently, this was a custom of that time.

Before we jump on Abraham too quickly, however, we need to realize that he was surrounded by very wicked people. He had just witnessed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which God brought on them because of their wickedness. He had every reason to believe that other groups of people in the area could be just as wicked. In fact, we get a hint that this is exactly what was going on in Abraham's mind when he explains himself and his actions to King Abimelech. In verse 11 we read that Abraham said, "I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake." If we think back at how the men acted in Sodom when Lot took the visitors into his home, then we might realize that Abraham had good reason to be uneasy about the situation.

Obviously, Abraham should never have become so fearful of the situation that he would resort to such trickery, especially at the risk of his own wife's well-being. It is most certain that this fearful mindset caused him to be blind to the recognition of the one true God that existed in this nation.

Fortunately for Abraham, God chose to graciously look beyond his faults and intercede to protect both Sarah and Abraham. And, that is the how God is toward those that are His covenantal children. We all make mistakes. None of us is living, or can live, a perfect life. Every one of us has, as Abraham has done twice now, twisted the truth to protect ourselves. Each of us needs God's grace just as Abraham received it here. Ask the Lord to be merciful to you in your life and to forgive the many sins you have committed even this very day.

January 19th

Genesis 21:1-34

The "child of promise" finally comes! For years, Abraham and Sarah have patiently waited. They have struggled with their personal doubts. They have tried to take matters in their own hands. They have wondered how any of this could ever be possible. Then, just as the Lord had repeatedly promised, "the Lord visited Sarah.and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken" (Genesis 21:1).

It happened, just as the Lord said it would! Sarah was old. She was well past the age when a woman could naturally continue having children. Outside of a miracle, she knew, Abraham knew, everyone knew, it was impossible for Sarah to become pregnant. Yet, "Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him" (Genesis 21:2). The miracle happened!

When Sarah had laughed to herself at the time the three visitors came and told Abraham that Sarah would have a child, the Lord posed the question, "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14). Now, the Lord had demonstrated the answer to that question. No! Nothing is too hard for the Lord!

Having given birth, Sarah laughed again. This time, however, it was not the doubting, cynical laugh of before. This was the joyful laugh of rejoicing and celebrating. Also, Sarah knew that every time she told her story the other women would laugh in amazement with her (see Genesis 21:6,7). No wonder they named the newborn Isaac. The name Isaac literally means, "laughter."

Isaac was the "child of promise" and his birth was certainly a miracle. However, Isaac is only a stepping stone in God's wonderful plan to provide salvation for all men. At the time of the first sin, which you read about in Genesis chapter 3, God promised a child that would destroy the power of the Devil. In Genesis 3:15 God called that child the seed of the woman. Isaac, who we read about being born in Genesis chapter 21, is not the child spoken of in Genesis 3:15. Isaac is a "child of promise," a miracle baby. But, he is not "The Promised Child." "The Promised Child" will be a miraculous baby with whom no other can compare. For, "The Promised Child" will not be simply a newborn human being. "The Promised Child" will be God Himself, born in human flesh.

As we read through the Bible, we are going to read of many different miraculous things, just as we did here about the birth of Isaac. Several of these miraculous events will be used by God to point us to the one greatest miracle of all time. Isaac, this miracle "child of promise" is one of the first clear pictures of the One, True, Miraculous "Promised Child" yet to come.

Thank God for His wonderful plan, and ask Him to open your eyes to see this plan unfold in His Holy Word, the Bible.

January 20th

Genesis 22:1-1-24

In this chapter Abraham faces probably the greatest test a man could face. Think about all that has preceded this extraordinary event. Abraham and Sarah were without a child for all their married life. Then God promises them a son through which He will make Abraham's descendents a mighty nation. The years go by. Even though God continues to reassure Abraham that he will have a son, the circumstances say otherwise. Abraham and Sarah continue to age and eventually reach the ages of 100 and 90 respectively. Nobody has a baby at this age, it is completely impossible. But, God is not bound by the circumstances of nature. And, just as He promised, God causes Sarah to become pregnant and Isaac is born.

Abraham and Sarah finally receive their long awaited son, the only son they would have. What joy they must have! What a relief they must have felt as their long wait finally came to an end. Now Abraham and Sarah could rest in the promise that God would somehow bring forth a great multitude of people through their one and only son Isaac.

Well, sitting back and resting in the joy of their son was not what was waiting for them. Rather, God comes to Abraham and makes the impossible request. God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son. Oh, what a test of Abraham's faith and trust in God. How could Abraham now kill the only son he has? What we see, however, is that Abraham does not doubt God. Rather, he takes Isaac and some of his servants and sets out for the mountain God had directed him to.

When they came near the place that God had designated, Abraham and Isaac leave the servants behind. Carefully read what Abraham tells his servants, "Abide here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you" (Genesis 22:5). Abraham fully expected that he and Isaac would return. How that would happen, I am sure Abraham did not know.

Next, I want you to notice how Abraham answers Isaac when Isaac asks about the lamb they will need for the sacrifice. Abraham answered Isaac saying, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb" (Genesis 22:8). Abraham, in faith, makes an astonishing statement. He completely believed that somehow God would intervene and provide the lamb. As you have already read in this chapter, God does intervene and stops Abraham before he actually slays Isaac. Then, God shows Abraham a ram caught in a thicket that he and Isaac can use for the sacrifice. In this way, God did provide the lamb. And, that lamb was offered, as the Scripture records, "in the stead of his son" (Genesis 22:13). The lamb was a substitute sacrifice for Isaac.

Do you remember how I told you that the miraculous birth of Isaac, the "child of promise," was a picture of the much more miraculous birth to come of "The Promised Child," God in human flesh? When an event in the Old Testament is used as a picture of a work God will do through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the New Testament, the Old Testament event is called a "foreshadow" of the New Testament event. That is what we have here. Isaac was the one God had stated should be slain. Yet, God intervened and provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac in the form of a lamb. This is a "foreshadow" of what God has planned to do for all mankind. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, the true "Promised Child," we will see that God will provide a substitute for the judgment that is over all men because of their sin. Just as the ram was a burnt offering in the place of Isaac, Jesus Christ took the wrath of God upon Himself in the place of you and me. We will read the wonderful story of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us when we read the New Testament.

Thank God today for providing His Son, Jesus Christ, as the substitute sacrifice for our sins.

January 21st

Genesis 23:1-20

This chapter contains the simple story of Abraham negotiating the purchase of a cave in which he will bury Sarah. Sarah has died at the age of 127. God had given her 37 years with her son Isaac. I am sure they were wonderful years for Sarah as she saw her miracle child grow up to be a man. I wonder if Abraham or Isaac ever told Sarah about what took place on the mountain in the land of Moriah that we read about in the last chapter. I think they probably did as their joy over how God had spared Isaac and provided the ram for a substitute sacrifice was probably too much to keep inside. If they did tell Sarah, then Sarah would have had even more reason to cherish her son Isaac. He was a son whom, according to all natural laws, she should never have had. And now, he is also a son whom God preserved and gave back to her.

I am happy that Sarah was able to enjoy so many years with her son Isaac. As parents, we should thank God for every year we are able to spend seeing our children grow, learn, and mature. As children, we should thank God for our parents and the love and care they give us.

January 22nd

Reading: Genesis 24:1-33

Sarah has died and Abraham is getting old. He is concerned about Isaac's future, especially the wife that he will have. It is interesting that Abraham does not go to Isaac to speak of this issue, but talks about it with his eldest servant. Apparently, the responsibility of obtaining a wife for Isaac would descend from Abraham to his eldest servant. This method of finding a wife for one's son may seem really strange to us in this modern age where we all think we should get to make all our own choices, but there is much we can learn about the benefits of keeping one's parents prominent in the whole picture. We will speak more about this each time you read through this passage in the future. This time through I want to focus on the providence of God.

Providence is a character trait of God that is an aspect of His sovereignty, or overruling power and authority. Noah Webster, in his original dictionary of the English language, defined providence as, "the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures." He adds that providence includes, "foresight; timely care; particularly, active foresight, or foresight accompanied with the procurement of what is necessary for future use." We see all these aspects in what God brought about for Abraham's servant to meet Rebekah.

Notice these passages. First, Abraham believes completely in God's providence. When his servant wonders about his responsibility should the girl refuse to come with him, Abraham answers, "The Lord God of heaven.shall send His angel before thee, and thou shall take a wife unto my son from thence" (Genesis 24:7). Abraham believed explicitly in God's active foresight and timely care; that is, God's providence.

Next, we see that Abraham's servant has adopted his master's faith and prays for God to work the situation out so he can easily identify the girl the Lord has chosen for Isaac. It is interesting that the servant speaks to God in his prayer as the "Lord God of my master Abraham" (Genesis 24:12). It may be that the servant is speaking from the position of a servant as he prays to God, but each of us needs to develop our own personal relationship with God.

Finally, as we look at God's providence, notice how quickly and precisely God answers the prayers of Abraham and his servant. "And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came" (Genesis 24:15). How gracious of God to providentially work the events in Abraham's servant's life that even before he was done praying and making His request, the answer was already being provided.

We need to understand that God does not always work in such an immediate way. Remember how long Abraham and Sarah waited for a son. However, one thing this story does begin to teach us is that God, who knows all things, already knows what we need and how He will answer before we ever ask. Thank God for His providential care in your life. He may not answer your and my prayers in the immediate fashion that He answered the prayer of Abraham's servant, but we can trust that God in His sovereignty and in His providence knows what we need and the best way to provide for our needs.

January 23rd

Reading: Genesis 24:34-67

In today's reading we complete the beautiful love story of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Yesterday's devotional brought out the providence of God in this situation and our need to rely upon His providence in our lives. I want to continue that theme here.

Abraham's servant faithfully tells the story of his master. He tells of how the Lord has blessed Abraham. He tells of how the Lord gave Sarah a child in her old age. And, he tells all the details from the time when he received his commission from Abraham to the time he met Rebekah at the well.

All of this was a witness and a testimony to Rebekah and her family. Additionally, God providentially prepared their hearts to hear what Abraham's servant had to share and to understand that the Lord's hand was in all that had transpired. Laban and Bethuel, Rebekah's brother and father, give their consent to let Rebekah go with Abraham's servant and be Isaac's wife. The next morning they get the consent from Rebekah that she will go and that she is willing to leave immediately.

As we reflect on today's reading, consider these two things. First, think of how the Lord has worked in your life and how you might be able to share that with others. Here we have read how the testimony of Abraham's servant had such a great impact upon Rebekah's family. Your testimony can be used of God in the same way with the people you come into contact. Second, ask the Lord to make you sensitive to His working in your life and in the lives of others. As you become more aware of the providence of God in your life and listen for the testimony of God working in the lives of others, these things will bolster your faith, just as they bolstered the faith of Abraham's servant and Rebekah's family.

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